|Found Art. Jasper National Park, August 2010|
Face-book, Twitter, Linked-In, Instagram, etc., are doing some really awful and some really wonderful things for our collective consciousness. Providing a forum for many who are too timid to engage literally in the charged conversations of the day, they potentially give anyone the feeling of being included, if only through putting together a sentence or two and clicking on “post.” Being noticed, after all, is one of our basic needs; so easy to take a cute picture of my cute dog (or butterfly) and actually publish it on line where friends see it and “like” it and some even consider it worthy of being “shared” with all their friends.
I call that a wonderful thing, even letting alone the ease with which staying in touch has become more immediate and deeper for those who choose to use social media to that end. Even letting alone the ease with which urgent news can be communicated to many, many people almost instantly. Even letting alone the fact that using social media is far more interactive and engaging than watching television, for instance, or reading a newspaper, magazine or book.
But all this wonderful stuff comes arm in arm with the revelation of some pretty awful characteristics of turbulent humanity. Seething rage now has an easy, unregulated outlet, as does the most nauseating fawning.
Those who claim “venting” is good for the soul and lessens the likelihood of physical violence might have a point; but those who say that habitual angry outbursts build on each other and raise the likelihood of eventual violence may also have a valid point.
“Yet ventilating, when it’s confined to repetitively self-vindicating messages, can also be self-limiting. And misused in this way (which is all too common) it can link to prematurely, and self-defeatingly, claiming “victimhood” when what’s really called for is actively behaving in ways that could potentially rectify a situation. As such, it can become little more than an excuse for not acting to resolve a problem or confront an issue that requires confrontation.” (Leon F. Seltzer, PhD in Psychology Today, see https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/201404/6-virtues-and-6-vices-venting)
The social media phenomenon has the power to teach us important lessons about ourselves. Because what was previously private can now be scrutinized without our knowledge, we possess the means for surreptitious break-and-enter into anyone’s underwear drawer and medicine cabinet, not to mention anyone's habits and preferences. The use of hacked material that would normally be private opens the door to targeted persuasion at the most benign end of the spectrum (as in advertising) to blackmail and political influencing of voters at the extreme, other end. We’ve already seen disturbing signs of the latter in the Muller investigation.
This could teach us something important both about our vulnerability to greasy charlatans and to temptation where power and money are at stake.
"They won’t be gunned down in the streets but they just might find themselves smothered by respect, good will, empathy, courtesy and common sense."
49,800,000 people worldwide have chosen to have Donald J. Trump’s tweets open on their computers or smart phones on a regular basis. The web log you’re reading right now is generally read by somewhere between 125 and 175 people. The world’s population is estimated to be 7,600,000,000. That means that 7,550,200,000 don’t see Trump tweets or that 7,599,999,850 will not read this post.
What’s my point? The volume of people who are engaged in whatever dominates a given news and social media cycle today is a marble compared to the basketball of people living ordinary, nine-to-five, non-politically partisan, unterrorist, family and community lives. For every person screaming and cursing at other people screaming and cursing at them, there must be millions quietly doing their best to make the world a bit better.
When the quiet, thoughtful people finally decide to unite and gather in person or on social media, or both, the crackpot fringes—left and right—of our populations might as well kiss their rage goodbye.
They won’t be gunned down in the streets but they just might find themselves smothered by respect, good will, empathy, courtesy and common sense.
Hasten the day!